Transport Surveillance: Social Impacts

Transport Surveillance: Social Impacts


Marcus Wigan, Oxford Systematics, AU and Napier University, UK; Roger Clarke, XamaX Consultancy, AU


Privacy and surveillance issues are becoming widespread in transport: this paper summarises many of these and places them in current context. Positive recommendations are made to avoid emergent community sensitivities


The growth in ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) and other potentially problematic surveillance applications has been occurring at the same time as measures such as data registration and data protection legislation have become mainstream. The acceleration in general state powers of surveillance due to both practical and political concerns as diverse as terrorism, illegal immigration, social security fraud, identity theft and related issues of information and communications vulnerabilities could be argued to have substantially derailed any claims of balance between ITS and privacy protections. This political development has fundamentally altered both the potential ?and actual- linkages between transport and other forms of data, and it is timely to review these components and assess how this new mix affects both industry and the community. Typical examples are the special controls now applied to ports and port workers, new passport and other open and encrypted RFID applications, as well as the arrival of routine non-anonymous tolling and automatic universal number plate observation, and linkage to registration, insurance and enforcement data bases.

The present paper assembles these different factors, legal and technical instruments, and assesses the scale of implementation and the consequences ? both intended and unintended. There are a range of devices (such as Nyms) which can enable the original objectives of many ITS systems without forcing everyone to associate their identity with every transport transaction. The supply chain impacts of RFID provide both opportunities and problems, most of which have not been widely communicated to the community at large, and the overall systems and their system designs are not well known ?especially in the broader transport applications to which they are increasingly relevant.

While these issues might be handled well in some individual systems, the rapidly emergent linkages between transport and other information systems creates a rather less well understood environment, and create the conditions for serious public concerns about ITS, which could be detrimental to its progress. The authors conclude with a series of constructive recommendations for sound practice in these increasingly sensitive areas.

Professor Wigan has been actively involved in these areas since the late 1960?s, as a result of road pricing research and policy development.
Professor Clarke has been actively involved in information privacy since the 1970s, and eBusiness since the 1980s.


Association for European Transport